Nurses are an integral part of healthcare in the United States, and the expertise of doctoral level nurses in ever higher demand. With online BSN to DNP programs, the desire to contribute in this meaningful way can become a reality for many people, even while maintaining a job and family life. However, the rigorous DNP requirements mean that you will need to study hard to get this coveted degree. GetEducated has compiled a useful list of the top BSN to DNP online programs that will be easy on your budget while you look to advance your nursing career.
What is a DNP?
A Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP is the highest degree in the nursing practice, and is a practice-focused degree. A PhD in nursing is another doctoral level degree, but is more research-oriented. Yet a DNP program will also include lots of work with research and how to apply evidence-based practice in our complex health care system.
For those who want to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), the DNP is the way to shoot right to the top of the profession. There are many accelerated BSN to DNP programs online, but they can vary in cost and requirements. For those who are not already in the nursing profession, but who are wondering “what is a DNP?”, there are also direct entry DNP programs that train people who want to transition into nursing from another career. This should not be confused with direct practice BSN to DNP programs, which focus on preparing expert nurses who will provide hands-on care to patients, versus indirect practice nursing, which prepares people to offer management and oversight, but not hands-on care to patients. There are online BSN to DNP programs that prepare students for either direct or indirect roles, depending on the student’s experience and interests.
GetEducated Sponsored Picks
- Grand Canyon University Doctor of Nursing Practice
- Purdue University Global Master of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice
- Messiah University Doctor of Nursing Practice / Family Nurse Practitioner
Is a BSN to DNP Online Program Right for You?
Many nurses who have a BSN may want to move up in the profession to be able to take on more responsibility, and that would make taking a DNP online program a great choice. People who enroll in BSN to DNP programs online may have worked in nursing for many years, or they might be fresh out of their BSN program and realize that they want to become leaders in this needed profession. Direct entry DNP programs are perfect for people who have a master’s degree in a different field, but feel called to nursing but want to enter the field with a high level of expertise that can only be gained in a doctoral program.
For anyone considering accelerated BSN to DNP programs online, a common question would be “How much do DNPs make?” You want to make sure that a Doctor of Nursing Practice salary will make the cost of online BSN to DNP programs worth it. The median salary for nurse practitioners, who must hold at least a master’s degree, isannually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Indeed, a doctor of nursing practice salary is substantial pay for all that studying and hard work.
But what is even more striking is the expected job growth in this profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the overall employment for nurse practitioners is expected to jump by 45% from 2019 to 2029. If you are not used to looking at job growth statistics, you may not realize how huge that number is. Due to the shortage of primary care physicians, and increasing needs for healthcare of an aging population, the role of advanced nursing workers is growing at a rate that just can’t be beat. Combine the number of job openings with the doctor of nursing practice salary, and you have a terrific reason to spend the money and time getting your DNP degree.
The cost of a BSN to DPN online program can be another consideration. While we have compiled this list of high-quality online BSN to DNP programs that cost under $35,000 total, you will find that other programs can easily cost over $200,000 to get your DPN. Even master’s degrees in these in-demand specialties can cost much more than $35k. So, if you want to go into a DPN role without going heavily into debt, the options on our list are some of the very best inexpensive BSN to DNP programs online.
Another question may be: should I choose a BSN to DPN program or a master’s degree? While you can become an APRN with a specialized master’s degree in one of the many hands-on specialties, like anesthesiology, neonatology, midwifery, geriatric care, or pediatrics, many people with a master’s degree will also choose to continue to get a DPN eventually. It may be the right choice to go ahead and get the DPN credential as soon as you can, which can give you more opportunities to serve patients with your expertise while also having the top credential in the profession.
DNP Curriculum and Careers
The curriculum in DPN programs can vary somewhat, but all programs will need accreditation, and will therefore cover many of the same basic topics. You will have courses in nursing theory and practice, research, evidence-based practice, ethics and law, epidemiology, informatics, and other core subjects. All of the programs will have clinical practice requirements, with often over 1,000 hours of practice required at a site in your area that has been approved by your program as part of your DNP requirements. For programs that have specialty concentrations like administration or neonatology, you will also have specific courses related to those roles, and your externship placement will likely be in a facility where you will concentrate on that area of practice.
When you complete your DNP, there are many places where you might wish to work. Popular choices include working at physician’s offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, health departments, long term care facilities, and colleges. Increasingly, nurse practitioners are being employed to add expert level health care to over-stretched health care systems, and can work in tandem with physicians, administrators, other nurses, and other health practitioners to both provide hands-on care or design interventions to improve health outcomes based on scientific research. Nurse practitioners are an ever more important component to our health system, and with a DNP degree, you will be able to have a positive influence on the lives of people in your community and even nationwide with your high level of expertise.
Top 5 Online BSN to DNP Programs Under $35,000
Idaho State University
Total Cost (In-State): $22,062
Total Cost (Out of State): $44,226
The online BSN-DPN program at Idaho State University offers students two different specialty options: Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Either program can be taken as a full time program with completion in two years, or as a part time program that will last three years. All of the clinical hours can be completed in the students area of residence, but there is a required orientation session on campus in August of the first year of the program. For clinical placements, Idaho residents—or those planning to complete their clinicals in Idaho—must contact the university for placement asisistance. Students who wish to complete their clinicals in a different state may contact the site first, and then work with university placement staff to make the arrangements. Most states will recognize this program for state licensure, but check with the program or your state board of nursing to make sure your state is covered. International students are welcome, but will need to complete the clinical portions of the program in the US.
This challenging program allows students to continue to work while pursuing the degree, but strongly recommends that students consider concentrating only on their rigorous studies, or that they minimize their work hours during their schooling. Students will need to prioritize clinical and study time to successfully complete the program. Admission requires a BSN from an accredited program with a 3.0 GPA. No GRE is required. Students must have an unencumbered nursing license and it is preferred, though not required, to have two years of professional nursing experience. An interview is also required prior to admission, but can be done by video for those living over 100 miles away. Priority applications are due on December 1st for a fall start, but applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the class fills up. Preference is given to full time applicants in admission decisions.
The BSN-DPN program at Idaho State University is a great program for students who want one of the offered specialties, and who want a high-quality program with just one required visit to campus.
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University of Mobile
Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $22,230
At University of Mobile, the online DNP program has a BSN-DNP track with a priority application deadline of April 1 for a fall start. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the program is full, and applicants should have at least a 2.75 GPA on the last 60 credits of their undergraduate education. Students must hold an unencumbered nursing license in the state in which they will perform their clinical requirements, and international students are welcome. The application requires a number of different submissions, including a curriculum vitae, a personal statement, and a health history. A minimum of one year of clinical experience is preferred but not required.
The Mobile program includes 84 hours of coursework and required 1100 hours of clinical practice. In addition, there are three on-campus intensives that students must complete scheduled throughout the program. Students work with a faculty advisor to plan their course of study to make sure they fulfill all the DNP requirements for graduation. The program prepares students to become leaders in nursing, whether in a small clinic or by working on national health care policy using evidence-based nursing practice. Courses include theory and ethics, leadership, research methods, advanced pathophysiology, informatics, faith and science, family practice nursing, and epidemiology. The demanding curriculum is designed to provide a solid foundation that will allow graduates to work in advanced roles in public health departments, primary care facilities, or private practices.
University of Mobile is a Baptist-affiliated school which looks to develop students into knowledgeable, caring, responsible and self-directed individuals capable of serving the complex needs of a diverse society. The nursing programs adhere to the highest standards of educational excellence in a Christian environment. For students who seek a top-quality program with a caring religious perspective, the University of Mobile provides an excellent education at a very reasonable cost.
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Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing
Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $25,931
With four different choices for specialty, the BSN to DNP online program at Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing offers great options: Adult Gerontology Acute Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health NP, or Neonatal NP. They also offer the lowest tuition of any DNP program online. Any of these tracks can be completed in five to six years, and applicants should have a 3.0 GPA from their undergraduate coursework, in addition to evidence of successful completion of undergraduate courses in nursing research and health assessment with a minimum grade of “C.” For those pursuing the Neonatal track, two years of full time work in a NICU, and for those in the PMHNP concentration, at least one year of experience in psych-mental health are requirements. The program accepts students with their BSN from CCNE, ACEN or CNEA accredited schools.
The first year of all four programs includes coursework in biostatistics, theory of advanced nursing practice, evidence-based practice, information systems, and cultural competency. The second year has all tracks studying financial management, law and ethics, organizational leadership, translating evidence into practice, and a clinical project. In the third year and onward, there are some specialty courses, some core courses, and many clinical courses. For the students in the AGACNP and FNP programs, they will need to come to campus for hands-on training once during each of three or four practicum classes.
The college is a faith-based school with a mission to serve people with the greatest care and love. Students who want a very professional program with their choice of specialty can look to Saint Francis Medical Center College for a solid education with a tiny price tag.
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The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga
Total Cost (In-State): $30,182
Total Cost (Out of State): $32,861
The pathway for the online BSN-DNP program at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga leads to the DNP: Nursing Administration Systems degree. It is designed for people with a BSN or a master’s degree in another subject to go into administrative and leadership roles in nursing. This is one of the direct entry DNP programs that are open to people coming from other fields of study. BSN students will take 57 credits of coursework, while those with a master’s degree will be evaluated individually for what courses they need to complete. Courses are completely online, but students will be required to come to campus for an admissions interview and three 3-day events: an orientation before the program begins, qualifying exams, and presentation of their final projects. Students can progress through the program on a full time or part time basis, and for those who want an MBA in Health Care Administration, they can continue beyond the DNP to complete that as well. Applications are due by October 1 for a January start to the program.
The courses in this program include work in nursing theory, informatics, research, evidence-based practice, resource management, finance, organizational leadership, epidemiology, and policy. There is also a clinical externship to round out the coursework, aiming to help students take on leadership roles in complex health care systems. One innovative part of the curriculum is the Translational Project, where students choose a problem in health care and present a researched, evidence-based potential solution to improve practice and patient outcomes. Presenting the project proposal to the committee serves as the student’s qualifying exam before they continue on to complete their project and the DNP program.
The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga BSN to DNP online program offers a great program for nurses or other master’s level professionals who want to make a difference in the health care system through innovative and evidence-based leadership. With a low cost to begin with, this is a terrific way for those from other fields to get into nursing administration for a very affordable price.
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Penn State University
Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $33,422
Students in the online BSN to DNP track at Penn State university are considered full time and are expected to enroll in at least three courses in the fall and spring semesters. This track usually takes eight semesters of full time study over the course of three years. The focus of the program is to translate research into practice, leadership for change, and advanced expertise in nursing. The program is 61 credits long, and includes nursing theory and research, ethics, epidemiology, informatics, and more. Students also take a series of courses in nursing administration, which adds courses in economics, leadership, human resources, and administration. All students will do advanced practice clinicals and a DNP project.
The coursework for this program is all online, but there are two 4-day on-campus intensives as part of the training. Additionally, students will need to make short in-person visits for orientation at the beginning of the program, qualifying exams, comprehensive exam, and a final presentation. Most students work while attending this program, though many do so part time, and employers will need to be flexible to allow students to complete the required work for the degree. Applicants need to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited US school or the international equivalent, a 3.5 GPA, and a current nursing license in a US state or foreign country. The application deadline is February 15 for a summer/fall start of the program.
For nurses looking for an affordable pathway to the doctoral nursing credential from a highly-recognized school, the Penn State University BSN to DNP online program is a perfect choice.
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Online BSN to DPN Programs that Cost Over $35,000
- Total Cost (In-State): $37,653
- Total Cost (Out of State): $89,369
- Total Cost (In-State & Out of State): $40,700
- Total Cost (In-State & Out of State): $43,624
- Total Cost (In-State & Out of State): $74,820
- Total Cost (In-State): $97,560
- Total Cost (Out of State): $117,080
Start Your BSN to DPN Online Today
Becoming a leader in health care through one of these inexpensive BSN to DNP online programs is a great way to advance your career, increase your salary, and make a difference in the world. With these terrific options for online education, you can get started today on a pathway that will lead to one of the fastest growing careers in the country.